Teaching is a stressful profession at any level. Whether it’s your first year on the job or you’re on the brink of retiring, you know the unique stress teachers feel 24/7. Part of it comes with the job, constantly having unofficial deadlines grading assignments so that the students don’t feel stressed, but part of it comes from empathizing with the students, having to plan for the future, and balancing work and life all while trying to maintain optimal mental health to be a “perfect” role model for your classroom.
Self-care nights can only help so much, which is why it’s important to have certain practices in place to reduce stress overall. That’s why we wanted to continue our “How-To” series and focus on stress relief tips for teachers.
Know When It’s Time to Unplug, Log Out, and Take a Break
The first thing teachers don’t realize is the fact that many never really clock out. They may be logged into their email on their phone, thus, responding to any panicked student or parent emails at all hours of the evening feels normal. Or, maybe they’re letting their grading bleed into the weekends, leaving little room for leisure. While your hours will look different than other jobs, you’re entitled to the same off-the-clock mindset as everyone else.
The easiest way to set boundaries in that regard? Do not log into your school email on your phone. It’s a hard, deliberate decision to make, but it will be a step in the right direction as far as stress relief tips for teachers go.
While keeping the student’s desire for quick grades, scores, results, and feedback in mind, it’s important to remember that it shouldn’t be at the expense of your own sanity. It can wait until after the weekend. It can wait a week (or more if needs be). Balance your time inside and outside the classroom, be sure to use your teacher prep period as best as possible. You don’t need to stay up until 11:59 pm grading or preparing the way your students scramble to finish an assignment at the last minute.
Remember that if you need help, you have to ask. Humans aren’t mind readers, so they may think you’re totally fine and functional when you’re actually floundering. If you have grading guides, you can enlist a student aide or student teacher to help out. Then you can put all your focus on the assignments that aren’t so easy to grade quickly.
General Stress Relief Tips for Teachers
Take Time to Breathe
Everyone always says to breathe when anxious or upset, but very few know how to practice these relieving breaths properly. Count to four as you inhale and to four again as you exhale. Do so for two to three minutes, or longer if necessary, until you feel your heart rate slow and the tension release. It’s simple, it’s effective, and it’s something you can do without bringing any attention to yourself. Though, escaping to the hall or outside to do so may also help.
Along with having time to breathe correctly, give yourself a chance to let your mind rest: eat a snack, take a walk to stretch your muscles (and get some vitamin D while you’re at it), read a chapter of a book, watch a short video, etc. Your students, though they may not fully appreciate them, get adequate breaks corresponding to the time in class. It’s simply in their lunch, their transition from class to class, naptime, reading time, and recess for the younger kids. Maybe it’s just taking the long way to the bathroom while they’re doing an assignment or taking a breather at the printer. Like your students, you’re entitled to breaks, especially if you might break down otherwise.
Utilize What’s Around You
We mentioned how one of the key stress relief tips for teachers is to ask for help when you need it, but it’s more than feeling behind on grading. Sometimes you just need a coffee chat, a lunch date, a one-on-one conversation with another adult, a phone call, etc. Human contact is essential to optimal mental health.
Along with this, you can work smarter, not harder. You can delegate tasks to software, tools, and technology that will inevitably lighten your load. Lesson planning software can make inputting new lessons easy, using old structures as guides. Putting in the time to make a grading guide for tests, quizzes, and simple assignments can make the grading process more automated as well. You can enlist the help of video lessons or other premade activities on days that you need to catch up. The options are limitless, whether you rope in another person or not.
Remember You’re Human
Mistakes happen. Things fall through the cracks. You can only handle so much. If you own it, you’re that much stronger than the person who refuses to acknowledge where they fall short. Maybe you graded a test wrong and the student came back to ask for a new grade. Instead of turning them away because you’re embarrassed at the mistake, thank them for understanding and do your best to fix it. Your students know you’re human, no matter what age they are, so to think their teacher wouldn’t make mistakes would be naive. We know they make mistakes, and if you own up to yours, their respect for you will skyrocket.
Along those same lines, remember that you’re just trying your hand at life like everybody else. Remember to be grateful for everything thrown in your path, even if it seems to be a nuisance at the time. Everything is a learning experience, and being grateful for the opportunity to learn is a surprising stress relief tip for teachers. Trying to put a positive spin on everything when appropriate is a way to combat negativity, which is where stress and anxiety take root. If and when you start viewing things as learning experiences rather than potholes or traffic jams, negative reactions won’t seem so frequent.
Of all the stress relief tips for teachers, embracing the stressful aspects of teaching is the most difficult to accept. The sooner you do so, the better off you’ll be. There are highs and lows, good moments and bad—you’ll be ahead some months and behind others, and all of those things are okay.
1st Place Spiritwear Is Cheering on Our Teachers
Whether you teach online or in person, we hope you consider and implement one or more of these stress relief tips. Some may work better with certain age groups over others, but there’s something everyone can take away.
At 1st Place Spiritwear, we empathize with all our education workers as they navigate stress, management, organization, and everything else that comes with the territory. We hope to share usable ideas in the hopes that people think about which areas of their job need some TLC. The faculty and staff act as the backbone of school spirit. Students and parents give a district personality, but the teachers give the district heart. Good luck this year, teachers!